Luke Haines has quite possibly the best Twitter profile description ever. The one time Auteurs and Black Box Recorder man who recently rewrote the history of Britain in the North Sea Scrolls describes himself as being at ‘At the coalface of conceptual rock n roll.’
And mining away next to him in producing melodic pop gems with wonderfully pretentious monikers like ‘I Danced in A Secular Fashion and ‘Everyone I Know Dead Or Fire’ are Mondo Jet Set. And they are good, very good.
Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t heard of them. The West Country band are very under the radar and seem quite content about it too. Some of the members were in a late sprouting Brit Pop act called Garfield’s Birthday. With Mondo Jet Set they have now issued four albums which have steadily got more ambitious, bizarre and tuneful as the years have gone by.
Their latest, Provincial Drama Club, which came out a week or so ago is their most brilliant, and most baffling yet. It is a collection of 23 songs, the vast majority of which clock in at under two minutes. Even the longer tracks like Caravan/The Slow Arcade are actually two songs spliced together.
The quirkiness and brevity of many of the songs remind me of The Magnetic Fields’ magnificent 69 Love Songs where the band veer from Busby Berkley show tunes to Velvet Underground style punk and then on to cheesy jazz in the space of five minutes. I’d also namecheck the rather brilliant and very hip Foxygen as fellow travellers too in the way that the LA band’s tracks are so packed with unexpected twists and turns.
Provincial Drama Club is slightly less exotic than 69 Love Songs – the key influences here are The Kinks, early Blur B sides and occasionally the harmonies of the Wilson Brothers – but is still a disconcerting listening experience.
Yet like 69 Love Songs, which took me about 10 plays before finally getting under its skin, stick with Provincial Drama Club and pretty soon you’ll be so addicted to it you’ll wish there were even more songs to hear.
There really are so many highlights here from the instant pop blast of ‘Everyone I Know Dead Or Fire’ or the Blur-esuqe (think Bank Holiday type thrashes) ‘Moth Attack.’ Pretty much everything on the album has a a hook or a melody and some odd instrumentation that makes it very memorable.
It does get a little too much at times. Alice – the latter part of John Before The Fire – has a gorgeous Beach Boys’ style melody which you want to hang around for way longer than the one minute that MJS give it.
But given the ambition and scope of Provincial Drama Club I can forgive them anything.
And when finally you have exhausted this album – and it has taken me the best part of three months to get in any way remotely tired of it, there is its predecessor Ha, Ha, Ha to explore – an album that for me was the best, ok second best, of 2011. A must buy for anyone who cherishes quirky English pop.